Life is good for the Edwards family – Tess, her Mum and Dad and little brother Brodie live happily together. Until Brodie is killed suddenly in a car accident.
That moment changes their life forever.
In the years following the tragedy, Tess finds a way to cope, with the help of her new friend. Ned is the only one who is honest with her, who helps her to deal with everything happening. He is the only person who loves her, who will support her and help keep things in control.
And, with her Mum having constant breakdowns, barely managing to survive, and her Dad just trying to keep the family afloat, life is spiralling and control is an appealing concept to Tess.
So she makes sure her school marks are perfect, her fitness levels and sports performance spot on and, most of all, her weight controlled. Ned helps her to resist food and get down to the number on the scales that makes life right again.
With Ned’s help, Tess becomes the perfect daughter, the perfect student and sports team member, with the perfect figure.
But does Tess really have control? And how far will Ned go to fight for it?
Dealing with the loss of not just her brother, but her old, happy life at a pivotal point in her youth, Tess’ plunge into becoming an anorexic is devastating, but realistic and understandable.
We watch on as Tess becomes obsessed with the figures on the scales, as she hides her great secret and takes comfort in her friendship with Ned, certain that he is good for her and unable to resist his charms.
McCaffrey’s beautiful narrative makes this a gripping, page-turning book, as we wonder whether Tess’ story will conclude with more tragedy or a happy ending. A great book is one that loses its readers in the story, becoming oblivious to real life. A great book has us feeling, really feeling, the pain of the characters.
Beautiful Monster takes us there, into Tess’ mind as she battles the dangerous desire for perfectionism, the terrible control this disease takes over her life, and the struggle to come to grips with being an only child in a family that should have another.
This, therefore, is a great book.
Beautiful Monster is published by Fremantle Press, $19.95 RRP